Makeup can be amazing, or it can bring you to tears. But, as someone who had to teach herself how to do camera-ready makeup at age 42, I’m here to tell you that it’s not nearly as scary or difficult as you think. There are very specific things I learned about doing my makeup in my 40s after having to figure it out for a television show I was hosting. Between lots of practice, and tons of play, I’ve boiled down the lessons I’ve learned to these four pieces of advice.
Oh, and for those of you who are visual learners without a lot of time, I made you a 5-minute Instagram reel.
You can always comment or DM me if you have questions, but here are the five things that have made the biggest difference:
1. Your Base Matters
Whether you’re new to the whole skincare game or you’re a seasoned pro, it’s important to recognize that the health of your skin makes a huge difference in how your makeup looks. That means keeping it hydrated and healthy–even if you’ve got those niggling crows feet or 11s. Don’t know where to start? I’m a huge fan of the Glass Skin craze, and I wrote about everything you need to start with a fabulous, dewy, and bouncy base.
Once you’ve got the skincare regimen nailed down, you need to consider a primer. Yes. Really. Makeup technology has advanced significantly over the last 10 years, which means that primers actually do something for your foundation–even if you’re not planning to do a full beat.
A quick rule about primers: Some are silicone-based, while some are water-based. Choose the one that matches the formulation of your chosen base. Don’t mix a silicone-based primer with a water-based foundation or concealer. The results will cause your makeup to slide, crinkle, and generally be a disaster at the end of the day.
Silicone-based primers and sunscreens tend to feel silky smooth on your skin, and you’ll almost immediately notice a mattifying effect, which is great for those of us who are prone to oily skin. Water-based primers and sunscreens tend to be hydrating and a bit stickier for those of us who have dry skin.
I’ve been known to use sunscreen as a primer, but I’m careful to match formulations. Here are my favorite primers and sunscreens that serve as a lovely base for gorgeous makeup.
- Silicone-based Primers & Sunscreens
- Water-based Primers & Sunscreens
2. Eyes First
Whether or not you plan to wear foundation, a tinted sunscreen, or just a few touches of concealer, always focus on your eyes first. That means that whatever you plan to do with your eyes, whether it’s over the top, or subtle and understated, start with your brows, lids, and lashes in that order.
Brows are the frames for your face. Do them how you like–but personally, I prefer a bushier, more defined brow. I was a victim of the 90s skinny eyebrow trend, and 20 years later, I’m still recovering, so I have some gaps. Here are my favorite products to fill them in and make my brows look fuller.
Don’t listen to the haters who say you shouldn’t wear shimmery eye makeup in your 40s. There are plenty of tools and tricks to help you pull it off. I play with eyeshadow a LOT–like borderline crazy person A LOT. I experiment with bold colors, shimmer, and even glitter.
As far as pallets go, I could make a list a mile long here, but there are two brands that I love and use regularly. Both offer silky smooth application, don’t get a lot of fallout (when the powder ends up in little dots under your eyes and then you smear it and look like a raccoon), and are super easy to blend, which is crucial with eyeshadow.
I don’t use natural brushes anymore. They are difficult to get clean (and yes, you should be cleaning your makeup brushes far more frequently than you do). As an animal lover, I also don’t like the process that’s used to create the brushes. I use just three small brushes on the regular: an all-over eye brush, a crease brush, and a thin liner brush.
Once you’ve got the shadow down, take the darkest color in your palette or a color that pops and use the tiny liner brush you have to pat the eyeshadow into your lash line. Follow with mascara (roll the wand instead of sweeping it and see what happens!)
Voilà, your eyes are DONE.
3. Set the Stuff you Like
Did you get your eyes perfect? Good job! Clean up any potential fallout with a makeup wipe and grab that setting spray and spray across your eyes. LET IT DRY before you open your eyes to avoid transferring your darker eyeliner to the crease. I flap around the bathroom like a crazy person until my eyes are dry and then move on to any kind of concealer or foundation.
Wipe off any miss-sprays under your eyes and sharpen any edges with that makeup wipe. The beauty of this method is that you can make a mess of your eyes, and still make them look good without having to reapply any foundation or concealer. I swear, doing things in this order has been a gamechanger for me.
Whether you’re going for a full face or just a little freshening, contour is your friend. It lifts the bits that sag and hides the (ahem) emerging jowls (don’t even get me started).
I like a cream contour if I’m going for a more bare-faced look and a powder one for those days when I’m doing a full face.
The trick with contour is to start higher than you think. So place the contour at the point near the top of you ear, where your ear meets your temple, then trace down from the upper ear under your cheek bone. Stop about two fingers from your nose, then take a brush or your fingers and blend like crazy. Do the same on the other side.
Blush goes above the contour from the apples of your cheeks (the place where your cheeks come forward when you smile) towards the ear connection.
I didn’t start learning to do my makeup until I had to, and that meant watching a LOT of YouTube videos and FAILING miserably at replicating the things I saw.
I’m getting better, but I’m not a professional makeup artist. I have gotten good enough that people compliment me regularly on my makeup. The real trick here is to think of putting on makeup as play rather than something you have to do. When you play, you can make mistakes and try new things. There’s no time pressure, and you can figure out what works for your skin and your face. I swear approaching makeup as something that is fun and playful has made a world of difference.